Showing posts with label II Kings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label II Kings. Show all posts

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gehazi walks on water (Matt. 14:22-33)

Matthew chapter fourteen is memorable for its two miracles: Jesus feeding five thousand people, and Jesus walking on water. But Matthew includes something else which no other gospel does: Peter walking on water.

This isn't the only time Peter is singled out and highlighted among the apostles. Later on within the same narrative section Peter is singled out and highlighted for a number of things: his great confession (16:16), Jesus giving him "the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven" (16:19), his awkward rebuke of Jesus (16:22), his request to set up three tents during Jesus' transfiguration (17:4), his confrontation with Jewish tax collectors and Jesus' private instructions to him about not offending them (7:24). All of these particular instances are pointing to something about his influential role as a leader among the apostles and first century Jewish Christians.

As noted in a previous post, Matthew is utilizing the history of John the Baptist and Jesus as types of prophets like those found among the post-Solomonic kingdom. Like the Queen's murderous plot against Elijah for prophesying against her "house," King Herod's wife, Herodias, plots to destroy John for prophesying against her "house" (14:1-12). But after John is murdered according to the Queen's request, Herod thinks Jesus is the resurrected John, and in that sense he is mistaken as an Elijah figure as well. Like Elijah before him, Jesus flees to the wilderness when his life is in danger (Matt. 14:13; 1 King 19:4; the Greek word sometimes translated as "desolate place" in the ESV is also the same word for "wilderness"), and then to a mountain to pray (Matt. 14: 23). This detail is peculiar because the last time a "mountain" was mentioned in Matthew's gospel was back in the Sermon on the Mount, which closely resembles Moses' giving of the Law at Sinai, only it was Jesus giving Torah to Israel in person. And when Elijah flees to the mountain for solitude and prayer, he flees to the same "mount of God" that Moses gave Torah to Israel (1 Kings 19:8). So earlier in Matthew's gospel, Jesus went up a "mountain" as a Moses-figure on the Mount of God, but now Jesus is going up a "mountain" as an Elijah-figure, ascending the same mount of God to plead on behalf of Israel.

In Matthew's narrative, John the Baptist is also regarded as a type of Elijah (Matt 11:7-14; 17:10-13; Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6). This changes things a bit because it aids in portraying Jesus a type of Elisha, Elijah's prophetic successor, as well. Just as Elisha multiplied loaves of bread for his disciples (and interestingly, Elisha is the only prophet in the old testament to perform this miracle: 2 Kings 4:42-44), Jesus feeds five thousand by multiplying loaves of bread. Like Elisha, Jesus also miraculously crosses the waters connected with the Jordan and is met by a school of disciples who "worship" him (Matt. 14:32; 2 Kings 2:14-15 LXX). And when his disciples are in the water, being tormented by the waves surrounding them (14:24),1 Jesus tells them "do not be afraid," which is the same thing Elisha tells his disciples when they are tormented by surrounding armies (2 Kings 6:15-17).

This is where the special focus upon Peter comes into play. Jesus just fed five thousand people and dismissed them (14:22). Afterward we find Jesus crossing the waters alone, and it is at that time we find Peter insisting to cross the waters with him, just like Elisha insisted to cross the waters with Elijah (2 Kings 2). We are not told why Peter wanted to cross the waters with Jesus. We're just told that he wanted to go if Jesus was willing to call him. Here Peter is portrayed as a leader among Israel, a type of Elisha who is willing to take up the mantle of his predecessor, Jesus. As St. Hilary of Poitiers aptly noted about this pericope, "Peter alone, turning away from the others, forsakes the world just as he did the waves of the sea, and sets out to follow the Lord's steps."2

This helps explain much of why Matthew includes this detail, whereas other gospels do not. Matthew does not tell us why Peter doubts after he starts crossing the waters, but he does make sure to let us know that Jesus thought about Peter's doubt: Jesus calls him a "little-faith"! (Some translations say "O you of little faith," but the Greek has Jesus addressing him directly as "little-faith"). Peter's persistence was great, but his faith was as "little" as the fearful disciples found earlier in Matthew's gospel (8:26). Perhaps Peter even thought of himself as an Elisha figure at his tenth step out into the water. Regardless, Matthew's main objective seems to be that Jesus is the greater Elijah of the narrative, and Peter is a chief disciples of his who needs to learn that lesson well. This makes Peter appear more like a Gehazi figure than an Elisha figure, disappointing his Master at a moment when faith is needed most. However, unlike Elijah's curse upon Gehazi's for his little faith, Jesus' reaction is different. Jesus blesses even the little faith that Peter has by stretching out a helping hand at the moment of his fall. And at the moment when Jesus gets into the boat, the tormenting waves stop too, which infers that the storm accompanied Jesus' walk across the waters. Jesus comes to his disciples accompanied with a storm, but the storm is only present because he is present. Likewise the storm is only dispelled because he gets out of the water and in to the boat with his disciples. Jesus comes, not only to help when his disciples fall, but also to reverse the cursed waves that torment his disciples by coming alongside them, getting into the boat with them. 

All of this points to Jesus as the greater Elisha whose power over the waters is greater than the mere parting of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:14). Jesus is the Lord of creation himself whose Spirit hovered over the waters at creation and in Peter's day, and still continues to hover over the face of all deeps in our day. He is the great "I AM"3 who appeared at creation to separate light from darkness, and he's the One who continues to appear as light in the midst of the darkness of night to calm the torments of our life. Jesus is the one who commanded dry land to appear out of the chaotic waters in the beginning and He is the One who brings all of his disciples safely back onto dry land when the chaotic world rages against us. 

All of this came about to Peter for the same reason that the Lord manifests himself in the lives of his disciples today: so that we can go out as his successors with greater faith than his disciples, declaring with even greater fervor than they did, that truly Jesus is the Son of God (Matt 14:33). If Jesus can make a great leader and disciple out of a "little-faith" like Peter, we can be sure that he can make great leaders and disciples out of us who believe a "little" too. But first, we must be willing to go out into the storms of life when Jesus calls. We must be willing to step out of the boat, if that's what Jesus calls us to do.

1.  The words translated in the ESV as "beaten by the waves" literally mean "tormented by the waves" in Greek
2.  St. Hilary of Poitiers, Trans. D. H. Williams, The Fathers of the Church: Commentary on Matthew [Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press; 2012], p. 168
3.  Matt. 14:27; the words of Jesus translated in the ESV as "It is I" literally mean "I AM" in Greek

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jesus the Prophet (Matthew 13:53-14:13)

As noted in a previous post, Matthew 13:53—14:13 comprises the first subsection of the distinctive narrative section that extends from 13:53 to 17:27. This subsection is identified as section "A" in that post. (It is really only for mnemonic reasons that the literary structure of this narrative section is often presented as extending from chapter 14 to chapter 17. A closer examination of Matthew’s gospel shows that this narrative section actually begins at the end of chapter 13, specifically verse 53, which notes the end of a lengthy discourse section: “And when Jesus had finished these parables…”.)

(For quick reviewing purposes Matthew 13:53—14:13 can be found here.)

In this section Jesus is found visiting his “hometown” for the first time since the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, immediately after his baptism (2:23; 4:13). So far, Matthew has told us nothing about Jesus and his childhood relationship with the people back home in Nazareth, but there is nonetheless much to be gleaned from this encounter in chapter 13.

At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is clearly honored enough in his hometown to be teaching his Jewish brethren within “their synagogue.” But by the end of this section Jesus is dishonored, and the reason why is because of his prophetic authority. Matthew illustrates this in various ways.  

First, instead of focusing upon his teaching in the synagogue, Matthew focuses on the people being “astonished” (ἐκπλήσσεσθαι) by him. The last time anyone Matthew records anyone as “astonished” (ἐκπλήσσεσθαι) is immediately after Jesus’ discourse on the Law (i.e. Sermon on the Mount) at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry of healing (7:28-29).

In 7:28-29, the people were astonished because Jesus was like Moses in his giving of the Law, except Jesus was giving the Law in a way that was greater than the Pharisees, and teaching with more authority than their scribes. However, at the end of chapter 13 the situation that Jesus encounters in Nazareth is different. Instead of simply teaching greater things than their scribes, Jesus is performing “mighty works” (δυνάμεις) which none of their scribes could perform. These “mighty works” were, of course, nothing new to Jesus’ ministry. He had been performing these works all along (11:20-23). Just like Jesus’ earlier report of his ministry to John (11:5-6), the blind were receiving sight, their lame walked, their lepers were cleansed, their deaf heard, and their poor had the gospel preached to them. Yet unlike John’s positive response to this news, the people of Nazareth were astonished because they knew who Jesus’ family was—who his father, mother, and siblings were—but they did not know from what source Jesus’ mighty works had come. Certainly they did not come from his family or even from the teachers of Israel!

Apparently there was too much pressure for Jesus’ “hometown” to accept him as having greater authority than anyone they knew—even their religious authorities—and they were offended (ἐσκανδαλίζοντο) by this. Like Jesus’ parable in the previous chapter, they received Jesus like the “rocky ground” received the seed sown by the Sower. They received Jesus with joy initially, yet because they had no “root” in them, they “fell away” (σκανδαλίζεται; 13:20-21). These aren’t the only instances when Jesus spoke about “falling away” or being “offended” (Greek: σκανδαλίζω). Earlier, Jesus had told the disciples of John that those who are not “offended” or “caused to fall” (σκανδαλισθῇ) by him are, in fact, blessed by him (11:6). So in comparison, this portrait of Jesus’ hometown is clearly not a blessed one. Instead, Matthew’s portrayal of Nazareth is more like a cursed “household” which refuses to honor its own family members who prophecy on behalf of Yahweh (13:57). The fact that Jesus is hated as a prophet in the same way that adulterous Israel hated the prophets of Yahweh—like Elijah, Elisha, and Jeremiah—is significant. It’s also significant that this the first passage within Matthew’s gospel that Jesus explicitly likens himself to a “prophet” (13:57).

Placing this label of “prophet” upon himself also makes perfect sense within the larger context of John the Baptist’s death. After we learn that the people of Jesus’ hometown are caused to fall by Jesus’ “mighty works” (δυνάμεις), Matthew segways onto a brief discussion about Herod hearing rumors about Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth. Apparently Herod heard about these same “miraculous powers” (δυνάμεις) that Jesus had done in Nazareth and elsewhere (14:1-2). But Matthew doesn’t merely tell us about Jesus’ fame reaching Herod; instead he focuses on something which at first glance appears out-of-place and off-topic: he focuses on John the Baptist’s death and it’s relationship with Herod’s wife, Herodias.

At first glance, Matthew’s focus upon Herodias appears to be beside the main point of Jesus’ ministry, but really it highlights Jesus’ place within this gospel, within Matthew's story of Jesus as Israel. Back in chapter 11, when Jesus told the disciples of John about those who are blessed for not stumbling by his “mighty works,” we learned that John was in prison anticipating the coming of the Messiah; but he was still alive then. Here in chapter 14 we hear about John again, but we learn that John has been murdered because Herod’s wife summoned John’s head to be served to her on a platter. Like the Queen’s murderous plot against Elijah for prophesying against her “house,” Herodias wants to destroy John for prophesying against her “house.” But Matthew’s main point is not actually about John or Elijah. It’s still about Jesus, but by recalling John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus’ ministry is clearly likened unto Elisha’s. It’s only when we find out that Herod thinks Jesus is John the Baptist—as though John was raised from the dead—that we also can see Jesus is to be likened very closely to Elijah and even more importantly, his successor, Elisha. (This typological association is even more explicit by the time we arrive at 16:14.)

Just as the ministry of Elijah foreshadowed the ministry of Elisha, so the ministry of John would foreshadow the ministry of Jesus. Like Elisha, Jesus would carry the prophetic mantle of the prophet before him and perform more “mighty works.” Indeed, throughout the following narrative section (i.e. chapters 14-17), the mighty works of Jesus make far more sense in light of Jesus as a type of Elijah and Elisha. Like Elijah before him, Jesus’ life is in danger from the King and Queen; he then flees to a mountain, then to the wilderness, and then to a widow in the region of Tyre and Sidon, like Elijah. Yet the parallels with Elisha, his successor, are even more striking.

Like Elisha, who is the only explicitly “anointed” prophet of the Old Covenant, Jesus is explicitly called the “Annointed One” by Peter (16:16 c.f. 1 Kings 19:16). Jesus also multiplies loaves of bread for his disciples, which is like Elisha, who was the only prophet in the Old Testament to do that particular miracle! Like Elisha, Jesus crosses the waters connected with the Jordan and is met by a school of disciples who “worship” him (Matt. 14:32; 2 Kings 2:14-15 LXX). When his disciples are tormented by the waves surrounding them, Jesus tells them “do not be afraid,” which is the same thing Elisha tells his disciples when they are tormented by surrounding armies (2 Kings 6:15-17). As the Shunammite woman prostrated herself before Elisha seeking help for her child, so the Canaanite woman prostrates herself before Jesus, and for the same reason (15:25; c.f. 2 Kings 4:27).

In an indirect manner, Jesus is also portrayed as a type of Elisha because of his disciple, Peter.1 Peter is highlighted as a type of chief disciple, similar to Gehazi, Elisha’s chief disciple. Like Gehazi with Elisha, Peter fails to understand his master’s mission, and he foolishly sets himself up as an obstacle between Jesus and other disciples. He is, in fact, the only disciple within the gospels to be singled out as both a chief disciple and a man of “little faith” (14:31). In this light, the resemblance between Peter and Gehazi is unmistakable.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Jesus is like Elisha in the way he forms a community of disciples around him. Unlike Elijah, who, like John the Baptist, attracted a lot of attention but not a lot of disciples to follow in his footsteps, Jesus accomplishes the opposite. Jesus attracts most of his disciples in chapters 14-17 of Matthew’s gospel. Like Elisha, Jesus ministers throughout the land of Israel, gathering, nourishing, and sustaining a new community of disciples in a time of great spiritual famine. But his ministry as the greater Elisha has only been alluded to briefly in this first subsection, when Jesus first hears news that Herod thinks he is the resurrected John the Baptist (14:1-3, 13). By his relationship with John's suffering as a prophet, Jesus suffering for the kingdom is foreshadowed, and by his relationship with Elisha's prophetic ministry, the rise of a new and greater Israel is anticipated. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"But Amaziah would not listen" (II Kings 14)

In II Kings 14 Amaziah king of Judah is portrayed as a son of Yahweh who does what is "right in the eyes of Yahweh," his Heavenly Father (v. 3), even though, sadly, "yet not like David his father," for it says that under Amaziah "the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places" (v. 4).

Nevertheless Amaziah is a valiant warrior of Yahweh, and Yahweh gives him strength to defeat His enemies. Amaziah strikes down 10,000 Edomites, and even the Edomite stronghold of Sela "by storm" (v. 7). In his zeal he then turns to taunt his brother, northern Israel, "face to face" (v. 8). This leads to an interesting and unexpected turn of events, considering that not every southern king does what is right in the eyes of Yahweh, and Yahweh had clearly provided a great victory for Amaziah.

The northern king, Jehoash, reminds Amaziah that he is a "thistle" in Lebanon in comparison to the northern "cedar" kingdom, and therefore is outmatched (vv. 9-10). Then we read: "But Amaziah would not listen" (v. 11). Up next, a battle between brothers ensues and Yahweh does not defend Amaziah for covering up his ears. Judah gets defeated in battle, Amaziah is captured, 400 cubits of Jerusalem's wall are broken down, and all the gold, silver, and holy "vessels" of Yahweh's house are plundered (vv. 11-14). Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of Yahweh, until his heart was lifted up against his brother. His zeal lacked wisdom from above, and wisdom from below divided the kingdom even further.

At the very beginning of Yahweh's division of the kingdom He promised a faithful remnant in Judah for His name's sake, and even a future deliverer --Josiah by name-- to begin restoring unity (I Kng. 13:2). All throughout the books of Kings we find brother fighting against brother, and foolish zeal followed by even more foolish zeal, as the people await deliverance from God. Only the wise in heart await deliverance from Yahweh, for He is the only living and true God. As the people await deliverance from Yahweh, one of the dominant lessons to be learned is that brothers warring against brothers only divides the kingdom further and further. When Israel attacks Judah, he plunders Yahweh's house, thereby provoking brother Judah. When Judah minds his own business, Yahweh protects him, which provokes brother Israel to jealousy. But brother Judah isn't perfect either. He too never completely removes the "high places" in his midst, which we know displeases Yahweh time and time again (I Kng. 15:14; 22:43; II Kng. 12:3; 14:4). If not for Yahweh's faithfulness to the covenant He established, even Judah would be toast. But Yahweh is faithful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression (Num. 14:18; Psa. 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13); therefore a faithful remnant will be preserved by Him as promised.

What we learn from II Kings 14 is that instead of presuming that Yahweh would defend his zealous and courageous taunts against his brother, Amaziah should have focused his energy on the high places in his own land, the land which Yahweh had given him. Instead of attempting to defend the name of Yahweh by attacking the idols of his brother's house, he should have listened to the practical advise of his brother and remained content with his glory, stay at home, and not provoke northern Israel any further (v. 10). Amaziah should have taken this very clear hint as being providential from Yahweh, and then turn his attention to his own house; but as we know from history, he didn't. Yahweh gave Amaziah a taste of glory when he struck down the stronghold of Edom "by storm," but not even a peep of thunder is directed at the idolatrous high places of his own house; therefore when Amaziah attacked the stronghold of his brother's house, Yahweh by no means cleared the guilty (Num. 14:18), and consequently the taste of Yahweh's glorious house went with him to the northern kingdom, where he was taken captive (vv. 11-14). Perhaps if Amaziah had dealt with the idols of his own house first, pulling the log out of his own eye first, he could have seen how much his zeal lacked wisdom; then Yahweh would have honored his zeal for His house.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jesus vs. Goliath (John 19:17-30)

John 19:17-30 parallels 18:13-27 in various ways, as seen also in John's neat chiastic arrangement (here). In 19:17-30 Jesus is taken from the Gentile "world" of Pilate's headquarters and back into the "land" near the city to be sacrificed on a cross, and eventually buried in a garden-tomb. Earlier in 18:13-27 Jesus was taken from the garden and sentenced to "die for the people" in that same land (v. 14). There in the land, Jesus declared that he had "spoken openly to the world" (v. 20), and in 19:17-30 Pilate writes an inscription above Jesus' cross for all to see, and he writes it in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, the three dominant languages of the world. Last of all, John the author is present in the background of both scenes, labeled as "the disciple" (18:15 & 19:26-27). In chapter 18, John is the disciple "known to the high priest" and allowed to enter his house (v. 15), whereas in chapter 19 John is known by Jesus, the true High Priest of God, and adopted into the "temple-house of Jesus' Father."

The literary structure of 19:17-30 carries some interesting parallels as well. 

A)  Jesus carries his own cross (19:17)
   B)  The soldiers crucify Jesus, dividing two others, one man crucified on each side of him (19:18)
      C)  Pilate writes: "Jesus the Nazarene,2 the King of the Jews" (19:19)
         D)  Many Jews read the inscription; the inscription was in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek (19:21)
      C')  Chief Priests of the Jews correct what Pilate wrote: "This man said, I am King of the Jews" (19:21-22)
   B')  When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his garments, one for each soldier (19:23-24)
A')  Jesus dies on the cross He carried (19:25-30)

In verse 17 (section A) Jesus is taken by soldiers, carrying his own cross to a place called Golgotha, which in Greek means "Place of the Skull." One Hebrew variant of Golgotha is gulgolet (גלגלת), which also means "skull," and is used throughout the old testament to describe "heads" of Israelites taken into the inventory of God's people. There are, however, a handful of other intriguing uses of gulgolet in the old testament which illuminate the significance of this name and place. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains lists three occurrences especially worth noting: Judges 9:53; II Kings 9:35; and I Chron. 10:10. 

In Judges 9:53, a woman crushes Abimelech's gulgolet with a millstone, both echoing and foreshadowing the seed of the woman (Christ) promised to crush the "skull" of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). In II Kings 9:35, Jehu storms into the courtyard of Jezreel to fulfill the word of Yahweh's curse against Jezebel, the king's daughter. In Hebew, Jezreel means "that which God planted." There, where Yahweh had planted a wicked queen over Israel to chasten His people, Jehu would come to uproot both the fruit and the root of Israel's idolatry. Where the house of Ahab sowed seeds of wickedness, Israel's Queen would be trampled down by Jehu, leaving behind only her gulgolet, feet, and hands. By coming to crush the skull of Jezebel, Jehu foreshadows one aspect of Christ's work, by crushing a type of seductive harlot-bride, the King's daughter and persecutor of Yahweh's covenant people, as unveiled by Jesus to John (Rev. 2:18-29). 

Finally, in I Chronicles 10:10 we find the Philistines taking the gulgolet of King Saul and bringing it to their central city of worship and into the temple of Dagon. That event echoed King David's triumph over the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath, whose gulgolet was cut off and taken near the city of Jerusalem (I Sam. 17:51-54). There, where the skull of Goliath of Gath was placed, is where Jesus was crucified: Gol-Gath-a. In the place where King David brought the crushed skull of the giant, there Jesus, the son of David, King of Israel, crushed the skull of the serpent. But John tells the story of skull-crushing a bit different than one might expect. In first Samuel, David carries his victory trophy while Yahweh scatters his enemies. In John's gospel, this section (19:17-30) begins with Jesus carrying his own cross to Golgotha, the "Place of the Skull," and he ends with Jesus on the cross he carried. Like David, Jesus also carries his victory trophy as the Father scatters his enemies, but unlike David, Jesus becomes the trophy lifted up for all the world to see.  His cross is the means of becoming lifted up, drawing all nations unto himself. As Jesus told Nicodemus at night, the Son of man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14). Even during the day, within the temple, Jesus proclaimed the same message, saying "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me" (8:28). And in case John wasn't clear enough in that passage, describing the necessity of being lifted up on a cross, it was before Jesus' arrest in the garden that He cried out one last time: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." But then John adds, "He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die" (12:32-33). 

In John 19:17-30, Jesus is hung on a tree, cursed of God, crushed for our iniquities. But in dying, the sins of the world are crushed with Him.  When both the "Head" and "Body" are crushed, the Spirit of God raises up a new body, a glorified Body, and they --being one with Him-- crush the head of the serpent. It is through the work of the cross that Satan's head is crushed and Jesus achieves victory, as promised in Genesis 3:15. It is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our union with His resurrected life that new creation begins, light overcomes darkness, and the powers of evil are destroyed.

1.  Peter J. Leithart, "We Saw His Glory" Implications of the Sanctuary Christology in John's Gospel, (published in Christology Ancient & Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics; Oliver D. Crisp and Fred Sanders, Editors) p. 128
2.  Peter Leithart makes this interesting remark about the inscription of Pilate: "Pilate's inscription on the cross identifies Jesus not as a but the Nazarene (John 19:19). In John, Nazareth is barely mentioned (cf. 1:45-46), and in John's view Pilate's titlon likely alludes not to Jesus' hometown but to Isaiah 11's prediction of a Messianic Branch (neser) from the stump of Jesse. Pilate's declaration means: "Jesus the Branch, King of the Jews." Qumran texts link Isaiah's Branch to the temple-building Branch (semah) of Zechariah 6:12: "Behold the man whose name is the Branch." Neser and semah are synonymous titles for the Messianic King who will build the eschatological temple. With his famous Ecce homo, Pilate quotes the first half of Zechariah 6:12 as he presents Jesus to the Jews, and then by putting "Nazarene" in the titlon he finishes the sentence and names Jesus as the Messianic temple-builder, a new Solomon." Ibid., p. 127. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Adam as the Priest-King of Eden

In The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, G. K. Beale describes the Garden of Eden as the place of God's presence and of God's first Priest-King, Adam. He writes:
  Israel's temple was the place where the priest experienced God's unique presence, and Eden was the place where Adam walked and talked with God. The same Hebrew verbal form (stem) mithallek used for God's 'walking back and forth' in the Garden (Gen. 3:8), also describes God's presence in the tabernacle (Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14 [15]; 2 Sam. 7:6-7).1  
  Genesis 2:15 says God placed Adam in the Garden 'to cultivate [i.e., work] it and to keep it'. The two Hebrew words for 'cultivate and keep' are usually translated 'serve and guard [or keep]' elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is true that the Hebrew word usually translated 'cultivate' can refer to an agricultural task when used by itself (e.g., 2:5; 3:23). When, however, these two words ...occur together in the Old Testament (within an approximately 15-word range), they refer either to Israelites 'serving' God and 'guarding [keeping]' God's word ...or to priests who 'keep' the 'service' (or 'charge') of the tabernacle (see Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chr. 23:32; Ezek. 44:14).2 
  The best translation of Adam's task in Genesis 2:15 is 'to cultivate (work) it and to keep it [the Garden]'. Regardless of the precise translation, however, the preceding observations suggest that the writer of Genesis 2 was portraying Adam against the later portrait of Israel's priests, and that he was the archetypal priest who served in and guarded (or 'took care of') God's first temple. While it is likely that a large part of Adam's task was to 'cultivate' and be a gardener as well as 'guarding' the garden, that all of his activities are to be understood primarily as priestly activity is suggested not only from the exclusive use of the two words in contexts of worship elsewhere but also because the garden was a sanctuary... If this is so, then the manual labour of 'gardening' itself would be priestly activity, since it would be maintaining the upkeep and order of the sanctuary. 
  After telling Adam to 'cultivate' and 'guard/keep' in Genesis 2:15, God gives him a specific 'command' in verse 16. The notion of divine 'commanding' (sara) or giving of 'commandments' (miswot) not untypically follows the word 'guard/keep' (samar) elsewhere, and in 1 kings 9:6, when both 'serving' and 'keeping' occur together, the idea of 'commandments to be kept' is in view. The 1 Kings passage is addressed to Solomon and his sons immediately after he had 'finished building the house of the Lord' (1 Kgs. 9:1): if they do 'not keep My commandments . . . and serve other gods . . . I will cut off Israel from the land . . . and the house [temple] . . . I will cast out of My sight' (1 Kgs. 9:6-7). Is this a mere coincidental connection with Genesis 2:15-16?
  Hence, it follows naturally that after God puts Adam into the Garden for 'cultivating/serving and keeping/guarding' (v. 15) that in the very next verse God would command Adam to keep a commandment: 'and the Lord God commanded the man . . .' The first 'torah' was that 'From any tree of the Garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). Accordingly, Adam's disobedience, as Israel's, results in his being cut off from the sacred land of the Garden. This is an indication that the task of Adam in Genesis 2:15 included more than mere spadework in the dirt of a garden. It is apparent that priestly obligations in Israel's later temple included the duty of 'guarding' unclean things from entering (cf. Num. 3:6-7, 32, 38; 18:1-7), and this appears to be relevant for Adam, especially in view of the unclean creature lurking on the perimeter of the Garden and who then enters.
  ...Adam's priestly role of 'guarding' (samar) the garden sanctuary may also be reflected in the later role of Israel's priests who were called 'guards' (1 Chron. 9:23) and repeatedly were referred to as temple 'gatekeepers' (repeatedly in 1 and 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah: e.g. 1 Chron. 9:17-27) who 'kept watch [samar] at the gates' (Neh. 11:19, 'so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean' (2 Chron. 23:19). Consequently, the priestly role in both the Garden and later temple was to 'manage' it by maintaining its order and keeping out uncleanness.3 
  There may also be significance that the word used for God 'putting' Adam 'into the garden' in Genesis 2:15 is not the usual Hebrew word for 'put' (sum) but is the word typically translated as 'to rest' (nuah). ...That this verb ...was intentionally chosen is pointed to further by the observation that it is used elsewhere to refer to the installation of sacred furniture (2 Chron. 4:8) and divine images into temples (2 Kgs. 17:29; Zech. 5:5-11) and especially of God's 'resting place' (so the noun form) in his heavenly palace-temple (Ps. 132:7-8, 14; Is. 66:1). Thus, the implication may be that God places Adam into a royal temple to begin to reign as his priestly vice-regent. In fact, Adam should always best be referred to as a 'priest-king', since it is only after the 'fall' that priesthood is separated from kingship, though Israel's eschatological expectation is of a messianic priest-king (e.g., see Zech. 6:12-13).4

1. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2004], p. 66
2. Ibid., pp. 66-7
3. Ibid., pp. 68-9
4. Ibid., pp. 69-70